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Treatment Phase 2: Chemotherapy

December 1, 2010 Fido No Comments

After a long weekend with Greg home, Argus and I spent Tuesday in Davis. Our appointment was in the Oncology department and Argus also got his staples out. Our student surgeon from a couple of weeks ago, Ms. Bowles, came by to say hello when we checked in and Argus fully kissed-clean her face.

Reason with me: if a big guy like Argus doesn’t hold a grudge against the lady who cut his leg off, can’t we all strive for a little more understanding and peace?

I continue to be impressed with the care we are getting there. The oncology student, Ms. O’Hara, took us into a small room and explained that she would do a physical examination of Argus and then bring in her instructor (a professional veterinary oncologist) to discuss the treatment options. Ms. O’Hara was gentle with Argus and he was cooperative with her. He seems to endear himself to all of these people, which I somehow believe is a personal reflection on me and I am proud to take credit for his behavior. Of course, if he were a rotten dog and everyone groaned when we walked in, I would take none of the blame. Thank goodness I’m not having children, as I am pretty sure this behavior is frowned upon at parent-teacher conferences!

The situation is this:

  • Argus is a candidate for chemotherapy, as the cancer has not yet metastasized into his organs — yet. When it does, the lungs and liver will likely be the first to be hit.
  • I agreed to make Argus part of a study that might net us slightly more positive odds than the standard treatment option. The average prognosis for amputation + chemotherapy is 12 months. I will be as clear as the doctor was with me: 50% of dogs do not live for 12 months from the time of diagnosis and 50% live longer than 12 months. Not pursuing chemotherapy puts the hourglass at 4-6 months. We knew we would move forward with chemo if the price was reasonable.
  • The treatment we are pursuing as part of this study is alternating 3 doses of carboplatin and 3 doses of doxorubicin, 3 weeks apart, for a total of 6 doses.┬áThe cost per dose of each is $250. To treat Argus’ cancer with carboplatin from the specialist in San Mateo, it would cost $800 per dose. We are happy to be part of the study to get the same medication at such a reduced rate!

Caryn drove in from El Dorado Hills and met me at the clinic just as the consultation began. When the doctors took Argus for his tests and treatment, Caryn and I went on a brisk bike ride in the outskirts of Davis. We had a couple of hours to kill and I was thankful for the diversion to keep my mind off of all the decisions and worry. We were both bundled up in 3 layers of gear and the biting wind still chilled us to the core. Bright side: we can keep our training rides up through the winter since I’ll be in Davis every three weeks for the next four months!

When I retrieved Argus at 3 PM, he was a little groggy from the mild sedation. I am grateful it was nothing like it was when he was sedated for the cytology last month! He ran out to the car and hopped up by himself, alert most of the way home. Once we got home, he settled in the kitchen for his dinner and then retired to our bed — a first since the surgery! I had to leave right away to babysit for friends and he jumped at the chance to come with me. He spent several hours “protecting” a dear 18-month old girl by laying under her crib; I couldn’t get him to leave her. It was so sweet.

I am confident that the worst of the treatment is over (knowing, of course, that the worst is as little as 4-6 months and hopefully as long as 12+ months away). I feel so fortunate that UC Davis took our case and that the care we have gotten has been so professional and caring at the same time. Please, if you ever find yourself in a situation like this, I highly recommend checking out a veterinary teaching hospital. This was our “hail mary” attempt at being able to afford treatment for Argus and I’d make the same choice again hands-down (and would likely make the choice even if money were no object).

I also want to give a shout-out for our local vet, Dr. Sutter at Aragon Vet Clinic in San Mateo. He has called several times since we made the decision to take Argus to Davis for treatment to inquire about his progress. He continues to provide counseling and reassurance that what we are experiencing is “normal.” I appreciate how hands-on he has been through this process of diagnosis, referrals, and treatment.

Here is Argus’ incision with the 43 staples out:

Day 15 - Staples Removed

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